Bloom Energy Corp., a Silicon Valley company that makes fuel-cell power generators, paid fourteen Mexican workers the equivalent of $2.66 an hour in pesos, according to a U.S. Department of Labor investigation.
A U.S. District Court judge ordered the company to pay over $62,000 in back wages and damages to the workers for violating federal minimum wage and overtime standards.
“We were surprised that it was happening in the heart of the Silicon Valley, which is known for high-paid salaries,” says Susana Blanco, director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in San Francisco.
The fourteen employees, who have since returned to Mexico, worked between 45-60 hours a week refurbishing power generators on a production line. Bloom Energy deposited their hourly wages in their bank accounts in Mexico, including $50 a day for food that would be rescinded if it wasn’t all used by the end of the day, says Blanco.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that hourly workers must be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
During the investigation, Bloom Energy Corp. maintained the workers were not their employees but were instead hired by a shelter company operating in Mexico, says Blanco.
Bloom Energy Corp. developed its so-called Bloom Energy Server, also known as a “Bloom Box” over nine years, with $400-million in investments.
The company did not respond to requests for comment for this story.